Ka's Reviews > Swordspoint

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
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's review
Mar 25, 11

bookshelves: fantasy, romance, lgbt
Read in March, 2011

Mix up swashbuckling sword action, gay romance, political intrigue, and a quasi-Renaissance-ish setting and you've got this novel. I actually read this series all out of order, starting with the one that comes chronologically after this (The Privilege of the Sword). It was a fun read, so I had to back up and read this one. It was like reading a slash fanfic. A fun, well-written fanfic, but nonetheless.

I don't mean that in a negative sense, really, but the character types (bratty whiny angsty dude, serious manly stoic dude, clever older lady and let's not forget that one chubby chick beloved by a hot young guy) were right out of half the slashfics I've ever read. Which isn't to say the prose wasn't good or the story, with its twists and turns and clever people all trying to outsmart one another, wasn't interesting. It just read like a fic for some reason. If you yourself happen to enjoy reading slashfic, especially of the wangsty sort (but not TOO wangsty, you can leave that for the sequel, "The Fall of the Kings"), then by all means hunt this book down at once.

I think the reason I felt the slashfic vibe, aside from the unusual (in published fantasy) gay romantic pairing, was the strong focus on describing how people felt about the other characters in every scene. Also, everyone in the novel was always thinking about how beautiful various men were, especially regarding eye color, which is definitely a style of language I rarely see outside of slashfic. And then there was the sort of inexplicable pairing: I like Alec and Richard as characters, although they don't get nearly as much backstory as you wind up wanting--but why are they together? Backstory needed, please! Jumping into an established world and relationship that we never get any more detail on the genesis of is okay in fanfic (the reader is supposed to be familiar with canon), but it's a little more annoying when this IS the canon. Okay, I guess there are more ways it reminded me of fic than I thought.

Fans of action should probably look elsewhere. There's some good swordfighting and face-punching in this book, but not a great deal of it, and it's always over quickly. The book's main focus is the relationships (not just romantic, but of all sorts) between characters, and the political trickery and nonsense which swallows up all threads of the plot by the end in a fun, twisty ending that I felt a bit dumb for not seeing coming. And for those of you who like a good hurt/comfort fic session (not really me), there are lots of melodramatic goings-on when it comes to Alec's behavior. He's always doing drugs or crushing glasses in his hand or provoking fights or doing other sorts of oh-so-tragic, self-destructive stuff that only luv and maybe a slap in the head can help him with. Despite this, I liked him, possibly because I knew he'd turn into the Mad Duke in the next book.

Overall a fun read, and I recommend it to anyone who read the above and didn't immediately flee the room in distaste. I'd give it 3.5 stars if I could, but due to the lack of backstory I felt I couldn't give 4.
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